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March 1, 2016
House Passes FEMA Reform Bill to Improve Disaster Programs & Reduce Costs

The House of Representatives today unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to address the rising costs of disasters in the United States, reduce the toll of future losses, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster assistance capabilities and programs.

The FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 1471) was introduced in the House by Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Lou Barletta (R-PA), Subcommittee Ranking Member André Carson (D-IN), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), and Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

H.R. 1471 authorizes FEMA programs that help reduce the loss of life and property and speed recovery for those impacted by disasters.  The bill also requires an assessment of trends in disaster losses and recommendations that will result in the reduction of losses and increased cost savings.

“The FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act has two primary goals: to help save lives, and to save taxpayers money,”Barletta said.  “While we are making FEMA more responsive, we’ll also be examining why the cost associated with recovering and rebuilding following disasters continues to increase.  I have travelled to different areas of the country, hearing from local people about their experiences in disaster relief, and I believe our study of rising costs will be critical to the efficient use taxpayer resources in responding to catastrophes.  If we can get a handle on rising costs, we will be better able to meet the needs of victims of future disasters.”

“This legislation provides much needed protections for emergency responders, as well as provides greater clarity of FEMA’s programs for state, tribal, and local governments,” said Carson.  “As a former first responder, I know the peace of mind that this legislation will provide to disaster responders, because this bill is critical to helping them better serve the needs of communities during a crisis.”

“Disaster losses and costs have been on the rise in recent years, and the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act provides a path to reducing future losses, reducing costs, and helping communities recover more effectively from disasters,”Shuster said.

“This bipartisan FEMA legislation will support the first responders who protect us, save lives by encouraging wildfire mitigation and earthquake warning systems, and clarify reimbursements to state and local governments dealing with disasters,” DeFazio said.  “I thank my colleagues for passing this legislation, and urge the Senate to take it up as soon as possible.”

Summary of the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015


  • Commissions an assessment of trends in disaster losses—their causes and amounts—and recommendations that will result in the reduction of losses and increased cost savings
  • Provides the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) additional direction and authorization for key programs that help reduce the loss of life and property and speed recovery for those impacted by disaster, including authorizing FEMA through FY 2018, consistent with current funding levels, and authorizing the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Response System through FY 2018 and clarifies liabilities and compensation issues related to participants in the system
  • Raises the Public Assistance small projects threshold to $1 million to reduce administrative costs, expedite assistance, and help communities recover more quickly
  • Establishes rates to reimburse states and local governments for the administrative costs incurred to implement disaster recovery projects, and provides a fixed cap to avoid uncontrolled administrative costs
  • Reinstates a 3-year statute of limitations on FEMA’s ability to reclaim funds based on an agency change in policy determination after an applicant has already spent the funds on projects previously determined to be eligible
  • Clarifies mitigation activities related to wildfires and earthquakesClick here for more information about the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015.


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